1. What to Expect in the FCE Speaking Exam Part One
What happens in the FCE speaking exam part one?
Part one is simple and lasts for about two to three minutes. In this part of the exam, the examiner will ask you questions about yourself. For example:
You could also be asked questions about your opinions. For example:
- What’s your favourite part of the day?
Different topics you could be asked about include:
- Your hometown/country
- Work and study
- Sports and leisure
- Family and friends
- Travel and holidays
- Hobbies and entertainment
You’ll normally be asked two or three questions.
This part of the test is a question-and-answer between the examiner and the candidates. You won’t talk to the other candidate during this section, although it’s really good to listen to their answers too.
The examiner may ask you the same question as your partner with a simple:
If you are listening, you can avoid repeating the same answer as your partner and will show that you are following the conversation.
2. How to Improve Your Score in the FCE Speaking Exam Part One
So what does the examiner look for?
In this part of the test, the examiners will look at three things:
- Grammar and vocabulary—whether you can use more complex words, phrases and sentence structures, and whether your language is accurate and clear.
- Discourse management—whether you can build longer answers with connections between your ideas.
- Pronunciation—how clearly you speak, and whether your stress and intonation are correct and natural.
Let’s look at what you can do to improve your marks in grammar and vocabulary and discourse management.
First, let’s look at grammar and vocabulary. You need to use a variety of grammatical structures, especially some more difficult structures to demonstrate your level.
Look at the following examples to the question: “Where would you like to go on holiday in the future?”
- I would like to go to Paris. It’s a romantic city and I want to see it.
This is a good answer, it uses the correct tenses and gives more information.
Now look at this answer:
- If I had the opportunity, I would like to travel to Paris because it is such a romantic city and looks really beautiful.
This answer is even better. Why?
Because it uses the second conditional—If I had…—as well as the words for emphasis—such and really—and also the conjunctions because and and.
These features make the answer longer, more complex, and better-connected. This will give you higher marks in the exam.
Learn more about conditionals in our lesson on the 5 levels of difficulty – conditionals.
You also need to show that you have a wide vocabulary; try to use different phrases and adjectives so that you don’t repeat yourself.
For example, learn some more advanced vocabulary related to common topics in part one, such as phrasal verbs, idioms or adjectives that you can easily use in a sentence. Then try to use them in your speaking exam. This will improve your marks and impress your examiner.
Look at these sample answers:
- I went to the cinema but it was empty.
- I went to the cinema but it was deserted.
The second sentence uses a less common adjective and immediately demonstrates that you have a bigger vocabulary.
Next, let’s look at discourse management. Remember that means building longer, coherent and fluent answers.
How can you improve your discourse management score during part one?
Make sure you use conjunctions like and, or, or but. Try to also use more complex linking words like although, however, or on the other hand.
These can help you connect and contrast your opinions for a higher mark. Look at the following sentences:
- I’m going to meet my friend later today. We’re going to go to a shopping centre.
- I’m going to meet my friend later today and we’re going to go to a shopping centre because it might rain. On the other hand, if the weather’s nice, we might go to the park instead.
The second sentence uses the simple conjunctions and, because, and on the other hand to connect the ideas. This sounds more fluid and natural.
This will give you a higher mark in your discourse management score as you will sound more like a native speaker.
Another important part of discourse management is fluency. It is important to avoid hesitations where you can. One way to do this is to use an expression to give yourself more time while you think. For example:
- That’s a good question.
- Well, let me think…
- Let me see…
This will make you sound more natural and avoid hesitations.
3. How You Can Appear More Confident
Naturally, you might feel nervous before your FCE speaking test. This is normal, but it can also affect your performance.
So, let’s look at some ways that you can feel and appear more confident in the exam. If you’re confident and positive, you will make a good impression on the examiner, and also find it easier to talk naturally and fluently.
It is a good idea to warm up before your FCE speaking exam so that you are more relaxed when you begin. A good way to do this is to speak to the other people waiting with you in English. This way, you are already used to speaking in English when you begin the exam and don’t have to suddenly change languages.
When you meet your examiner, smile! Be friendly. If you smile, you immediately appear happy and confident even if you’re extremely nervous. If you’re positive and friendly with the examiner, they will respond well to you and this will help you feel more comfortable around them. Remember to smile naturally, you don’t want to scare anyone!
Your body language can say a lot! Remember to sit up straight and look at your examiner when you’re speaking to them. Making eye contact makes you appear more confident and in control.
It’s also a good idea to turn to your partner and listen when they speak. These simple things will improve your marks in the exam because you are showing that you have good communication skills and are interested in what people have to say.
Try to speak naturally
This is really important as when you’re nervous, you might try to speak too quickly, which can lead to mistakes and also make you difficult to understand. Make sure you speak naturally and clearly to avoid this. This will also help you get higher marks on your pronunciation as you will be understood more easily.
My most important tip is to be yourself in the exam. It’s okay to make jokes or use humour or express your opinions. Showing your personality, instead of trying to be some kind of FCE robot, lets you express yourself well in English and the examiner will see this.
Remember that in part one of the FCE speaking test, the examiner will ask you about familiar topics, for example your home or family. This will help you to relax and be yourself from the beginning of the exam.
4. FCE Speaking Exam Sample Questions and Answers
OK, now that you know what’s going to happen in part one of your FCE speaking exam, and how to be more confident going in, let’s look at some sample questions and answers.
These will help you see what makes a good answer, and also review the tips and points we looked at earlier on in this video.
Our first question:
It is very likely you will be asked this question at the beginning of your exam. Look at the following answers:
- I live in Spain.
- I live in a pretty town in the south of Spain.
The second answer is better as it is longer and includes more details and description. Remember that it is important to answer in full sentences in the FCE speaking exam as this will improve your marks in discourse management.
Here’s another sample question:
- Tell us about a TV show you’ve seen recently.
A lot of the questions you may be asked are likely to be very open questions similar to this one. These open questions are great because they give you a good opportunity to express your opinions and use some of your phrasal verbs and adjectives!
Look at this answer:
- Yesterday I watched a show about animals. It was funny.
This is OK, but it’s quite basic for FCE level, and there aren’t any details.
Here is another answer:
- Recently I’ve been watching Making a Murderer. I’m interested in crime and psychology so I enjoy this TV show a lot.
You can see here how using more advanced vocabulary and grammar can make your answer more interesting and detailed.
This answer would help you get a higher score on your speaking exam.
Now look at this question:
- Are you interested in sport?
Again, this is a very open question which is good as it lets you personalise your answer.
Look at this answer:
- Yes, I’m interested in sport.
What do you think?
It’s not a great answer: it’s quite short and doesn’t give any additional information.
What about this one?
- Yes, I’m interested in sport. I really like basketball and swimming. In fact, I swim every day.
You can see here how giving a longer answer gives more information. However, this answer doesn’t flow very well and is still quite basic.
So how should it be done?
- Well… Yes, I’m interested in sport. I really like basketball and swimming because they’re great exercise and you can practise them outside. In fact, I love swimming so much that I swim every day!
You can see here how using conjunctions makes the answer sound more natural and allows you to build longer answers.
You can also see how saying something simple like well… at the beginning of your answer gives you more time to think and produce a better answer.
Now that you’ve seen some example questions and answers, I hope have a good idea of what to expect in part one of your Cambridge FCE speaking exam.
Watch next from Oxford Online English: advice for part two of the Cambridge FCE speaking exam.